It’s definitely fair to say that the world of soccer has undergone a lot of changes within the last forty or so years. The increased prominence of continental competitions, associated prize money and more lucrative television rights have meant that there’s been a lot more money flowing around the game. As a result, the prices that clubs pay for players has increased – here’s how that’s changed over the decades.
A good starting point for this is finding out where the origins of the million-pound fee lies. It actually comes at an earlier time than one might expect – in Britain at least, the first million-pound player was Trevor Francis in 1979 as a result of his move from Birmingham City to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. Intriguingly, legendary manager Clough publicly claimed that the price tag for Francis was actually £999,999 in order to reduce pressure on the then 25-year-old forward. However, even with this claim, Francis delivered when it mattered, providing Forest with a winning goal in that year’s European Cup final. His towering header over Malmo would prove to be the only goal of the game and, even when the rest of Francis’ career with Forest was plagued by injury, his place in the fans’ hearts was secured.
The intervening years between the late seventies and the present day has seen the highest fee for a player include the likes of the £10 million move of French forward Jean-Pierre Papin to AC Milan from Marseille and Alan Shearer’s career-defining £15 million transfer to Newcastle United from Blackburn Rovers, where he’d won the Premier League. It would be in the sphere of forwards where the fees would rise high, through Ronaldo’s move to Inter Milan and Christian Vieri’s move to Inter for a near £30 million.
However, whilst the Italian clubs would dominate with big fees for Vieri and Crespo amongst others, it would be the policy of Florentino Perez at Real Madrid and constant moves for their Galacticos that would lay down a benchmark. Zinedine Zidane’s £48 million fee would stand as a record for eight years, before being broken several times by both Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo to the Bernabeu. It is this move to Madrid for Ronaldo that is really the first truly ‘modern’ transfer, with the Portuguese star commanding an £80 million fee, which the modern game has come to see as normal in recent years. This has only been reinforced by their move for Gareth Bale in 2013 that would cost £85 million and then smashed again by Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United for nearly £90 million.
In recent years, the fees reached another all-time high with a major jump up to £198 million, or €222 million when Neymar was bought by Paris St. Germain from FC Barcelona. This came as a result of the French side meeting Neymar’s buyout clause. As a result of Spanish employment law, each player has to have a release clause, or they would be able to take their employer to court. PSG’s transfer activity hasn’t been stopped with the purchase of Neymar as they also splashed the cash on wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, who also commanded a sky-high fee of €145 million and €35 million in add-ons. Such transfers have had a majorly positive effect on a side that have been able to dominate Ligue 1 for several years, as is evident by the latest news and betting odds from bet365. The all-conquering duo of Neymar and Mbappe looks to have given PSG the best odds to win the French top division with odds of 2/7 in their favour. Furthermore, both Neymar and Mbappe have a high chance of winning the Ligue 1’s Golden Boot, with the pair each having odds of 7/1 to romp to victory.
As soccer becomes a more lucrative business, it should come as little surprise that fees for players have increased so much. The likes of Neymar, Bale and Ronaldo prove that football is a global brand and therefore the money that clubs pay for players is worth more than just their on-pitch performance and also encompasses everything from marketability to image rights.
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